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Norton: Mandela's Story Can Serve As Inspiration For Younger Generations

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D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton is hoping that teachers across the District use today to teach lessons about the life and legacy of Nelson Mandela.

Many lawmakers had already left the U.S. Capitol before Mandela's death was announced yesterday evening. But as one briefing in the House was wrapping up, staffers and a lawmaker began whispering to their neighbors, quietly passing their phones to share the news that a titan had died.

It's a loss that's being felt deeply by older Washingtonians, including Norton, who was among those who took part in protests against apartheid outside the South African Embassy. In the wake of Mandela's passing, she says she also wants the District's children to know Mandela's story.

"It is an occasion to make young people understand why there is such an outpouring at the death of Nelson Mandela. When they see what is happening they will want to know,  'What is there about this man?' So this is an important educational moment for teachers and educators," she says.

Norton says generations to come have a lot to learn from Mandela. She says his legacy "is unselfish leadership, selfless leadership, leadership offered when you get nothing in return. And in his case he got less than nothing — he spent 30 years in jail. And instead of bringing bitterness out of such a long captivity, he brought a model of leadership we seldom see in the world anywhere today," she says.

Congress is out for the rest of the week, but lawmakers are expected to honor Mandela when they return to Washington next week.

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